My brother, Anthony, enjoys cooking and he is also quite good at it. I enjoy drinking beer and am also quite good at that.
So, Saint Arnold Brewery's One Pot Showdown seemed like a great, local event to partake in to boast our respective talents. Last Sunday afternoon, we joined 80 teams, all gathered to fix the best meal possible, cooked with Saint Arnold beer and entirely prepared - from start to finish - in one, single pot.
Weeks of debate over what to serve ensued. Gumbo? Etouffee? Chili? We couldn't decide.
But, the one ingredient we all agreed upon was music. Whatever we chose to prepare for Houston's fun-hungry would be served with a big side helping of musical deliciousness. As we've done for countless tailgates and family picnics, we devised a playlist to entertain ourselves and those we hoped would gather around our booth.
The day of the event, I was elated to know others felt the same way. The excited chatter and hard work of the collected four-person teams was soundtracked by everything from Alan Jackson's "Good Time" to Daft Punk's "Get Lucky."
Once our meal was set to simmer, my brother, Adrian, and I ventured out amongst the competition to see what was on their musical menus.
Before we started crashing tents, we felt it might be good form to check in with a Saint Arnold official first. We ran down Lennie Ambrose, the brewery's marketing and events director. He reminded us that the event was a fund raiser for Kids' Meals, a non-profit organization which serves healthy lunches year round to pre-school aged children in need.
He also added this was the event's seventh year and that the 800 guest tickets were sold out in three hours, far outpacing the team entry sales because "it's a lot less work to buy a ticket and come out and eat than it is to plan and cook."
I agreed. And he agreed music in the background probably did make it easier to slice, sautee and dish out mass quantities of food. I asked him for a personal music favorite.
"You know, I am the least sophisticated music person ever," he said. "I like pretty much anything live. That's my criteria, I love any live music."
With the green light, we approached the Potheads Cookers Team. Reggae wafted from their booth like the sweet aroma of the stickiest of the icky. Or, at least like the island flavors of the Santo and Kalua-styled Hawaiian pork they were cooking up.
"We've been all over the board with the jams," said Pothead Craig Curbello. His teammates, Gil Co and Trey Wagers, starting rattling off songs they'd mixed into the morning. Fourth man, Brent Partin, said the one song that summed up their cooking for the day was probably Ben Harper's "Burn One Down," and added that music was indeed essential to any of their cookoff endeavors.
"Without a doubt," he said. "It would be a terrible day without it."
The good men of Come and Take It allowed us to rest a minute in a string of Astrodome seats they set out before their cookout tent. I was transported back to the Eighth Wonder, where the times were good, but the food and beer nowhere near as good as what was on display this day.
Dane Whiddon brought 80 gigs of "everything but rap" for the day. As would-be Astrodome protectors, it was no surprise they favored Texas acts like Hayes Carll, Bob Schneider and Willie Nelson.
My brother asked if there was any one song they associated with the Astrodome and they almost on cue broke into the chorus of "Houston Oilers #1." They were terrific, gracious guys, but I wasn't about to stick around for that song and the bad memories it can conjure up.
The Liquors, competing for a fifth year, were blasting "Free Bird" when we approached. How could we not stop?
By this time, I'd had a few Saint Arnold variations and my reporting admittedly got sloppy. I got everyone's names - Ben and Stephen Scriber, Al Guidry and Katie McConnell - but have no idea which of them (not Katie, I do know that) said to me, "We just like to have music playing all the time, whether it be classic rock or funk or rap or hip hop, we just like to have it going behind our cooking.
"It all goes together with this type of atmosphere, bringing people together, because everybody loves music, right?"
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Yes. That would be my short answer. Back at our tent, our teammate Trey browned sirloin to Kendrick Lamar's "Backseat Freestyle." We reduced the Saint Arnold Winter Stout to "Sonic Reducer." We threw "Llego Borracho el Borracho" in to set the mood for the carne guisada we were cooking and played Journey for the nice folks next door - Gabriel, Minette and Victor - who shared an outstanding chili with us.
Once the gates opened to the festival's hungry, thirsty guests, our playlist was designed to attract them to our humble offerings. Michael Jackson, Beyonce, a little new wave and some Led Zeppelin for good measure.
We also introduced our festival brethren to "thrashgrass" by handing out sample CDs of my son's band. He even threw down a new, novelty ditty for the day's events called "One Pot Hoedown." He's not about doing anything that seems even remotely commercial, but I guess he figured he owed his old man at least this one favor to help commemorate a pretty big day.
In the end, it was a big day for our team - 4 Guys, 1 Pot - because we placed third amongst all competitors for our "Carne Gui-Stout-A." Helping others while drinking excellent beer and insanely good food, socializing with our Houston neighbors, getting a trophy and listening to all day music? Of course we'll be back for seconds next year.